Dancing in the Grey – Life with my Asperger’s
© Rory Matier 2015
This chapter comprises three episodes.
Please Note this book was written in 2015.
The views within these chapters are mine and may not necessarily resonate with others on the spectrum – however bear in mind the quote by Dr. Stephen Shore .. “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
Chapter 10 – Ep 14
‘One Is Glad To Be Of Service’
“Andrew Martin – Bicentennial Man 1999”
A lot of people do not enjoy working; they say that in order for them to pay their bills and live their life, they have to work. A friend of mine repeatedly informs me that ‘no one’ actually wants or likes to work, they must do it.
If that is so, which l doubt, l have been truly lucky with all of my occupations to date, be this seasonal, part time, full time or self employed. But then l have specifically chosen career paths or projects that l have wanted to be busy with. Additionally, l do not work at something which l am unable to derive any enjoyment from as it seems quite pointless. My philosophy is simple, find something that you love doing and give it a crack! Why give hours and hours of your valuable time to perform in an activity you are not going to benefit from? Okay, sure perhaps the benefit is only to procure an income, but if you must hold this thought, then ensure that you are still working in an industry that awards you some pleasure.
Some kids used to have a paper round when younger, l remember a time in Australia wanting one but my parents said NO, l was simply too clumsy on a bicycle as it was and to then load me down with newspapers was simply inviting an accident! However when l was younger, perhaps around 14 years age bracket and when l first arrived back in the UK from Australia, l was living for a short while in Trefriw in North Wales, where my Father was renting some property while he looked for work in London. His brother was married to the daughter of the owner of the woollen mill there. I spent a few weeks in the gift shop attending sales, and l thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
For me it was an absolute haven, l was surrounded by fabrics of all colours and other gift inspired oddities. Yes l was somewhat shy around the customers, but it was here that l learned to don my first ever ‘work pretence’ mask. If l could, for the time l was there take on the role of a ‘great salesperson’ then l could simply act like one. It worked and l made loads of sales when l was there. I could literally sell anything to anyone, and it was there that l over heard the manager talking to the owner and awarded me a compliment ‘That lad could sell oil and camels back to the Arab sheiks themselves!’
It was my first time ‘working’, and when l realised that l could earn money from ‘selling’ my time to someone else, l was hooked. For in essence that is what it is all about, you are selling your time, and an employer is buying it – a simple commodity transfer, no different to any other transaction in any industry. You can make your time more valuable by becoming skilled and educated, securing knowledge and advertising your time for a higher income. When you possess abilities higher than the average Joe, you have become a much needed commodity, and when you gain even more experience in your chosen fields you climb the ladder to greater heights. So if you are going to actively take part in all of this, is it not also to your advantage to at the very least enjoy the journey?
I understand only too well that at times not everyone can hold out for the ideal jobs and that must be truly horrible. But what l fail to comprehend is why so many people in jobs complain all the time? They were responsible for their actions in the first place by applying their time into that profession, why do it if you simply do not enjoy the time spent there, furthermore, if you are unhappy, then take the time whilst you are in secured employment to seek out more prosperous avenues. But many don’t, they stay unhappy because they are now stuck in the routine of fear.
The amount of times l have heard people say ‘blah blah unhappy, blah blah what can l do?’ To me, l fail to see the hardship, not happy, then do something about it. Surely that is the answer? Instead of constantly complaining and making yourself unhappier every day, then open up the local papers, or join the cards at a recruiter and start to resell your time again. We only have one life, and as such our time is valuable to not only us, but to others also. So find the persons who really want to buy your time from you.
The time in the woollen mill was time well spent, l learned that l apparently had the gift of the gab, that there was something about my personality [masked or not] that people liked, they liked to listen to me talk, and became seduced by my voice in such a way that they wanted to spend their money on my products! It was here that l first was able to think about the time concept, l have surplus time that l want to sell, and there are others who have a gap for that and want to buy mine, seems like a fair deal.
And so it was that l was launched into the fascinating world of earning monies through using spare and free time and converting it into productivity and efficiency. Perhaps not everyone would view their careers in such a way, but l did and still do hold that philosophy. From around the age of 14 l began to read many books on sales, marketing, achievements through working, books written by entrepreneurs and so on to glean as much information as l could concerning ‘selling’.
At the around the same time, l developed a passion for ironing, l could simply never have enough to do, and relieved my mother of her duties to take on the role of household ironer. In truth it eased some of my stresses at home; it was a great way of calming down from a day of school stress and anxiety. My mother complimented my skill and suggested that perhaps l could make some additional monies by adapting this skill to a wider audience. Without a second thought, l had some flyers printed off under my snazzy name of ‘Jus Prest!’ I researched all the local ironing adverts in my local area, even sent off a few baskets of clothing to some of them as testers. The returned products were expensive and okay – but that was it – the ironed clothing was just ‘okay, not wow fantastic!’
I knew that my new business would make a killing, it was that simple! I set about establishing my expenditures – irons, boards, hangers, distilled water, fresh baskets, starch and more importantly electric usage and of course the biggest item was productivity and my time and then combined this knowledge to create my price list. Understanding demography has always been a forte of mine – it is basically population dynamics, so converting that knowledge into my local market was easy – demand and supply, demand and supply – the simplest of mathematics in truth.
Flyers with a stapled price list attachment were distributed to 300 hundred houses around where l lived and l was astonished at the response within 48 hours of my drop! By the first week l had a small client base of around 20 customers, by the end of the first month that had increased to 50. I had to call it evens at that point. I was still at school, and had homework to do, but l had no social life at the weekends to worry about, but l still had to sleep! In fact the business venture became so successful, it became too successful. A knock on the door one day after school from the local tax inspector caused my parents to ask me to ‘cease’ my money making adventures! The tax office had received a complaint from a ‘party’ who did not think it right that a 15 year old should be running a highly lucrative ironing business! However l have to be honest and say, it mattered not in truth l had been running it for about 9 months and during that time had amassed a good little nest egg for any future entrepreneurial enterprises l might decide to invest in. The fact that l had achieved such a profitable success meant more to me than many might have known. My math teacher could stuff her ‘amount to nothing comments’ where the sun did not shine!
These days although l have both an iron and a board in the house, l hardly press anything, which irks my partner as she hates the task but insists that everything should be ironed! I can see the importance of smart clothing, but goodness what is the point to ironed boxer shorts and socks? The moment you wear them, they are crumpled!
Another hobby turned business was ‘house clearances and jumble sales’ my Mother was very interested in this for a goodly while and whilst not convinced myself, l became quite interested in the book side of things and even more impressed when an original French novel was discovered in the local scouting hall for a mere five pence, an absolute bargain l thought and after purchase and a little research sold it for a very good sum of well over £700. And so a new hobby was born with that, books were researched, bought, cleaned up if necessary and sold on, this saw me through my school days and provided me with a little extra pocket money.
I wrote small articles for a while and submitted some of my horror stories to magazines and these were printed but never awarded any richly bound treasures, but again, pocket money increments are still earners. Some years later the penning of erotic literature would however line my pockets with a bit more than a few pounds and pennies.
Not that long back, perhaps seven years ago another of my hobbies the ‘DVD’ market, made me a tidy profit on EBay, which was just as well as it meant that l could sustain my obsession with buying films from the same place. I would buy bulk genres, sort them out, clean them, keep the ones l wanted and relist the ones l did not.
Fact was at a young age, when l discovered l could use my initiative to secure monies; l think l fell in love with the concept of income potentials. For me to sell my time or my creativity to another party of venture was just a natural process. To have more money in your pocket, your account or just somewhere accessible meant you could further expand upon it, be this for business or personal gains.
At around 15 nearly 16, after the close of Jus Prest, l saw an advert in a local paper for the position of part time catering assistant in a local hotel in Woking and that then became my way forwards for a few years. It paid the way through college and into my first full time catering position. Stupidly young and impressionable, l believed the catering industry was my future for the rest of my life. It wasn’t of course, but it did teach and provide me with more information had l not been involved. Plus l came out a reasonably good chef, not good enough to give Jamie Oliver a run for his money, but at least l was passable.
Whilst at college l landed another part time job with a franchise run business that operated in council properties in the county of Surrey, although l was based in Guildford the same as my Technical College, supplying the banqueting facilities. I graduated out of my higher education not with the intention of becoming a full blown chef but realising that management was secured much easier with this under your belt in family run business’s.
I was very lucky to be employed as an Assistant Manager and even luckier that my chef skills were not seriously put to the test and that my employers never found out about any of my disasters at college like blowing up the fryers one afternoon through clumsiness!
It took me a few years in that industry to realise that it was not my true vocation as originally believed, and that after reaching the status of manager, l could not progress any further because of the size of the business and my younger years. The next steps were to be founded in the likes of the larger cities such as London hotels, and there it would mean dropping to the very low levels with no guarantee at seeing management after five years minimum, and it basically lost its appeal.
My long suffering girlfriend at the time who worked in the fashion industry for ‘Monsoon’ and always looked so glamorous suggested l also try out for the industry and made mention to a vacancy for Assistant Manager in the Guildford Burtons.
S.W.O.T = Strength, Weakness, Opportunity & Threat
Admittedly this was indeed a career move for the better, at the time it was the eighties, a vibrant culture that l still have clearly etched into my mind for the sheer delight of it all. The music at the time was and still is appreciated by me all these years on. A colourful time for fashion also, if you were to be involved an industry this field was the bee’s knees! These days if you are to be involved in an up and coming field, then it is IT I still find it somewhat humorous, that somehow back in the mid eighties we survived and communicated without mobile phones, personal computers, wifi, IPods’ and the internet
I won the interview for the posting of Assistant Manager with Burtons – l remember the interview also – with a man who smoked Lambert & Butler cigarettes and smelled of cat pee, who continually asked me why it appeared l was looking over his right shoulder – so much so that he kept looking over that shoulder – l had to seriously concentrate to look at the bridge of his nose instead without going cross eyed!
I loved the industry, not so much the customers, but it was bright and colourful and rich in fabric, and it introduced me to merchandising and display which l really took to. I also learned more about management techniques and staffing, recruitment and training staff, l learned later on how to profile staff for recruitment and picked up some useful talents by my own cognition.
Back then, the management strategies of teaching incorporated the likes of tests constructed by Meredith Belbin, were all about SWOT, leadership exercises and the list was endless, but they were like the Holy Grail to us and treasured! In the eighties such training made you feel that you too could walk the path of enlightenment like a true Harvard business follower indeed.
Back then l was spotted as a natural leader within any team role, although they said it was not so much a ‘social leader’, l was considered distanced, detached and almost aloof from the staff, but was well liked, considered hard but fair. That l had almost what appeared to be an inbuilt sense of righteousness, and apparently this was considered an asset of management.
We were constantly instructed by our own mentors, to carry out our professional lives in a manner that was seen to be constructive, we worked to deadlines, we had at times impossible targets to achieve, we were to be seen as constantly motivated and self inspired, to be seen by the viewing clientele as ‘the go getters’ of our time.
In the fashion industry as l was so employed for quite some time during the late eighties to early nineties, we were to be seen as unique, creative, possessing flair, modern day dandies. As trainers, we were to be viewed as innovative of which the profiling department at the time was then so viewed in recruitment. Headhunting professionals from external competitors was an activity that was viewed by some as distasteful and dishonest, not forgetting those involved would be regarded as scoundrels, whilst other recruitment offices within other companies were to admire and look upon our concept as awe inspiring.
Back then what many did not realise was that my mind was constantly buzzing, almost like it was never to settle down to an easy beat, that it was constantly looking for new experiences, data, resources, stimulation – l had to keep feeding it. That each day absolutely shattered me, and when eventually l would get home l had to retreat into my own world just to settle down again, but in the same time with my mind moving faster than sound or so it felt like to me, l was starting my life of burning the candle at both ends. I was always out to prove to others that l could do the same thing, ‘better than them’ yet l never truly knew why l felt that way. My upper managers would tell me to slow down, that l was already leaps and bounds ahead of my peers, and if l was not careful l would burn out.
I would always take on board and request harder tasks and challenges, and slowly over a period of time was to be considered not the most social of managers but one that got results. I was considered ‘overly ambitious’ yet could never tell anyone, it was not that – it ran deeper – during this time l wondered if it had anything to do with my Father’s comments of never amounting to anything? But the more l analysed the more l realised it was that despite everything, l simply felt that l never truly fitted in or more so – belonged.
As l type today, l look at the attire l am wearing: jeans, t-shirt, sweat shirt, socks and crocks! Long gone are the days of a practising Dandy! I do not need to express anything to anyone, so despite my partner wanting to iron these things, l decline. I have enough skill in my own ability to iron should l need to; however of recent times there is no need for that level of crispness in my clothing. Still today is a far cry from the days in the caravan – for without a partner – l had no one to dress up for, as horses are not that bothered by your appearance. Back then, the grunge look supreme was my way. Baggy jeans, a tatty cardigan, odd socks and wellingtons! Admittedly then l was not that bothered by my own appearance let alone what others thought of it, at least these days l have some pride and my dignity is restored.
But in the eighties, when involved in the fashion trade, appearance and how others viewed you was ‘everything’. Elegant brogues shone within an inch of their life, twice daily shaving to ensure you had that fresh baby bottom look. When Mouflon jackets with huge padded shoulders and available in twenty plus colours were all the rage, and double breasted suits exquisitely tailored by the Italians were the dress code, when the likes of SWJ were creating fashionably cut trousers that possessed more pleats than a six year olds’ school skirt! The days of fashion elegance in the eighties were truly a remarkable time for designers and manufacturers alike. And you were simply nobody if you did not cut the dashing figure of class and style!
I had always favoured a ‘romantic look’ and as such would oft wear my jacket draped upon my shoulders like Clarke Gable fashioned in the forties in Hollywood, and liked my hair to be tidy but own the wind swept look, with ironed shirts that whilst the collar was starched the body of said shirt had to look naturally pressed and not forced.
Yesterdays were filled with fashionable accessories such as vividly coloured and patterned ties and matching waistcoats, fashion jewellery adorned the lapels of jackets and cufflinks were the ‘in thing’, as were ties pins. The knot of the tie also had to be a very specific tying and not overly large nor too small. Belts were a necessity rather than a practicality, boxer shorts over ruled underpants because of the VPL and socks had to be plain and smart or fashionably patterned. Aftershave and lotions had to be from the ‘right designer’ and not too over powering a scent, so as to not offend, but appeal to those who could detect its presence.
Oh yes this was the look of the true dandy, for me it was the most colourful series of masks l had ever worn to date. You were noticed but you used all these gaudy statements as a means of hiding your true self – and by Jove it worked! I dressed like this and sometimes much more flamboyantly for me this l can not deny. The smart side was the way to fit into the society; however l could still strike a posture of uniqueness which displayed my own true identity – why be ordinary when you can extraordinary?
The suits and Mouflon jackets have long gone. Boxer shorts are more comfortable than underpants but no longer do they sit in neatly ironed piles, but again live in a drawer in one colourful mob alongside matching pairs of socks. [My partner likes matching socks] The last time l wore a collared shirt let alone a starched shirt must be now a good twenty years ago, although l am sure l have worn a couple since then albeit un ironed! My wrist has not seen a watch on its skin since 1993, and my brilliant collection of ties and waistcoats hangs on the respective contraptions created for such things! And yet l find l can not part with this impressive collection, I have no reason to wear them, l have no social occasions to boast them, nor any flattering young females to flaunt them to.
These days’ l wear cargoes or jeans, for they are practical, they need not to be starched and ironed specifically, and do not posses a crease that used to be so sharp it could have sunk the Titanic. Now l wear clothing that l feel 100% comfortable in, and with the sensitivity issues that have arisen in the last decade this alone can prove enough of a challenge to the buyer! The grunge look has retired from my life, now l am smart casual, with clothing that fits, and is new in comparison to second hand or hand me downs.
I still do not wear or even possess a watch or a pocket watch, l do have a mobile phone but hardly carry that with me as is. I think with my days working with the horses l acquired the ability to sense the time as many farmers can do.
These days you are more likely to see me either don a peak cap or one of those woolly contraptions without the bobble attached than you are to see a trilby or my trade mark at one point a tartan trilby made by Gap which l was practically heart broken when some beast in London stole it from my collection during a break in of my apartment!
In the eighties with my love for Victorian Dandies, and my eccentric behaviour combined with my natural quirks, l think l was born to be a dandy, it was that simple. But l loved the fashion industry, l was passionate about it, and again treated it as a hobby; l could literally research and read for hours during my days off everything there was to learn regarding the field of clothing.
My life has always been about walking paths, taking journeys, trekking into the unknown, how many steps l have trod on one quest or crusade l will never know. I have worked in many avenues and industries. Performed in the roles of leader and the led, been motivated and inspired, and worked in both dominant and subservient positions. I learned and acquired further knowledge so that my time was worth buying by another.
I have trained, recruited, profiled many brilliant and powerful minds, catered to the desires of others, l have held down many positions during my life and enjoyed and savoured every moment. What ever l have chosen as a career or indeed simply applied for as a job, l have always done my utmost, and glad to have been of service.
Many years before even being recognised or suggested that l was an Aspergian, l worked for others in an almost robotic fashion, hardly ever complaining or grumbling about the way things were, if l saw them as unjust, l simply accepted what it was and did the best l could. As a younger more ambitious man, although still eager to please, l was more aggressive in achieving my goals, and set about each new challenge with fervour, in an attempt to prove not only to myself but others that l was just as able as them, if not better!
Even back then, l can still recall that l would go over and above the requirements of my job descriptions; work longer and harder, always aiming to please, to fit in, to show that l was exactly the same as all the others. I could be assigned the most mundane of tasks and derive an enjoyment for its banality, never questioning why others looked on at me – some respect, others awe and a few even envy and distaste.
Never did l question why l was awarded tasks that everyone else passed by, l would without a flinch accept the extra duties and finalise the requirements, and in so doing not realise that all l was achieving in many eyes, was that of the title of ‘dogs’ body or Do Gooder’’. Yet if this was so much the case, why was it me that was in fact racing up the ladders of progression? Perhaps this is why for many years l was never really included in the social gatherings with work places. I could easily relate to other managers, share ideas, concepts and suggestions on how best to improve the performances of staff and or the actual outlets. I used to attend the occasional event, such as a Christmas party or dinner, but most of the time l did not really want to participate in such things, and oft when others were out, l would find myself working late balancing figures or rearranging the merchandise with other staff or managers who felt the same way as l about social evenings.
I think the fashion industry was more appealing than my time in catering because of the colourful merchandise, also not forgetting that l fallen deeply in love or become obsessed with the notion of the Victoriana, and tried my best to relive this era through the way l dressed for work! I was always to be seen in outfits that were not the ’norm’, but hey it was the eighties and l was allowed free reign to a certain degree.
Despite taking on higher education to learn how to cook and thus become a chef, which in truth l believed was the ways forwards to quickly progressing from the kitchen to the first rung of the management ladder, and whilst l enjoyed my work, it was never truly fulfilling. Plus l was always prone to misadventure in catering, even when in management roles l was somewhat accidental in some of the tasks that were awarded me, and soon came to realise that even though l had just scraped through as a qualified chef, had secured a job in management and was performing above the requirements of my job description, l believed l was never fully appreciated.
Back then, in catering, it was all too easy for a robotic individual who hardly ever complained, worked long hours without requesting days off and shunned social holidays, to be abused. Not in the literal sense, but come on let us all be honest, surely the ideal work employee is one who furnishes the employers with the above, is not paid a great deal of income and who never seemingly wants to leave the premises! If you had a slave, you would probably make use of their ‘special attributes’’, and put them to work, and my employers did just that. Not an ideal system perhaps, l can acknowledge that, l would always say ‘l don’t really care, as long as they pay me fairly and squarely, l will do what is required’.
Sadly however, this is where the catering employers slipped up, and over a period of time, much longer l should imagine than a Neurotypical would suffer, l became all too well aware of the ‘abuse’ and looked elsewhere for employment. Much to my parents and friends’ relief who had started to believe that perhaps l was not right in the head!
But l have always known that l have been and still am a compassionate person, we who fall under this banner seek no conflict, we deal in feelings and emotions albeit at times in black and white, and above everything we seek peace and quiet to many degrees at any price, and quite likely give in all too easily. So to those who can spot this, we are easily manipulated. And sadly during my travels in this world of employment, somehow have found myself in this manipulated field a few times!
My first steps into the business world started for me at a relatively young age as you will have already seen. I have always been fascinated with learning new things, sure l may need them explained a few times, but if l have a profound interest in them, l take to the process very quickly indeed, if on the other hand it bores me to tears [yes l too get bored], l will do said task, but will have no real lustre for it! I just like the idea of working and earning, it’s no different to anyone else. Also l have always regarded myself as a bit of an entrepreneur and if l see an opportunity for securing income, then l will where possible fall upon it and seize it by the horns to ensure a success.
I fondly remember one Christmas period in Surrey when l was around 17 and was given the job of cleaning out green bottles for a garden nursery. The indoor plant bottles were huge, and had to be cleaned out and polished up, before having the plants fitted to them. Everyone else was bored within only a few hours, but l actually loved it. And recall with some fondness of trying to encourage the remaining motley crew to join me in a non stop chorus of ’ten green bottles’, sadly however, they again simply thought l was nuts and chose to continue working in silence, whilst l sang the song myself.
The works manager thought l was entertaining and brought me in from bottle duty and said l could work in the warmer areas potting plants, which l found to be incredibly mundane and requested going back outside to the green bottles! Every night l got home, l ached, was sore, frozen to the bone and absolutely filthy. I then had to spend hours showering and using ear buds and cotton wool balls removing grime from the areas that the shower could not penetrate! But l was paid for my services, and l was happy!
I think l aspired to become involved in catering because of the small job l had acquired whilst at school that continued on whilst l was at college. I had applied for a small weekend job in a hotel in Woking, which was owned by a lovely chap and his family. He always reminded me of one of the two Ronnie’s, it was his small stature, his hair and the glasses l think that made me think that way. Plus he was gifted with a rare sense of humour that made me always smile.
Mostly this job involved me working in the kitchens, larder room, washing pots and pans, but soon as l became valuable, l was then awarded the glamorous task of waiting on tables, taking orders, supplying the two bars and restocking the cellars. It was here that my fascination developed with wines and spirits, not the drinking of them, but getting to know all the names and the cocktails or meals that they could make or be served with. I was here for a good few years, and it saw me leave school and take up the course in Guildford Catering College. It was an enjoyable time indeed.
However catering was not to be my chosen field and after a few years l grew weary of this industry and left. I had followed the path of management however was working for a small Guildford family firm as an assistant general manager in a contract catering capacity. We supplied our services to the likes of council run buildings, such as Civic Halls and cinemas. We also had a few restaurants under our banner and quite a few public houses. I never regret any of the choices l have made regarding working or my career paths, catering may not have been the right role for me, but l can not deny that it still aided my talent and skill base, l learned many things in the acquisition of knowledge that still aid me today, and ironically l am a much better chef now than l was when younger! I think because l really do love cooking, but more so l am allowed to experiment more, and my partner, Suzanne is a very good guinea pig!
Chapter 10 – Ep 15 – Soon